By Graham Hardcastle
Gary Ballance says Yorkshire’s players go into their two friendly matches on home soil against Durham and Leeds/Bradford MCC Universities with places still up for grabs, especially in the bowling department.
The White Rose captain was delighted with their 13-day training camp in Potchefstroom, which finished midway through last week.
“It was just what we wanted and the perfect two weeks,” said last season’s leading run-scorer.
Yorkshire now have five days of action in England before their opening Specsavers County Championship match against champions Essex at Emerald Headingley on April 13.
They face Durham at Emirates Riverside next Tuesday and Wednesday before hosting the students of Leeds/Bradford in a three-day match starting on April 7.
Prior to leaving South Africa, Jack Brooks spoke about how between seven and ten seamers – pending fitness – were fighting it out for four spots against Essex, and that is the area of the side that will give Ballance and coach Andrew Gale the biggest headache.
“It’s been like that for a few years,” said Ballance.
“There’s still a few places up in the air for that first game.
“In the seam attack, we have so many options to go with. There are definitely going to be some disappointed guys. But it’s a long season and everyone will be used.
“To win a Championship, you need a full squad. Fingers crossed we make the right decision.”
Yorkshire enjoyed six productive days of match action in Potchefstroom, split between four days of red ball cricket and two 50-over fixtures.
“Guys put their hands up and showed they can perform in both formats,” said Ballance. “That’s just what you want going into a summer.
“It was very good and productive. They have great facilities out there.
“The lads got to spend some valuable time in the middle. We had six hundreds with a lot of other batters retiring having scored runs. The bowlers also did well.
“The lads are ready to go now, but we still have nearly three weeks until that first Championship game. There’s plenty of time for more preparation.
“Hopefully we can get outdoors as soon as possible and get used to the Dukes ball swinging and seaming around.”
Conditions will certainly be a lot different in Chester-le-Street next week to those of Potchefstroom.
“Up at Durham it will be freezing!” Ballance laughed.
“But we’re just going to have to take a lot of layers and handwarmers and get stuck in. Hopefully we can get the cold ones out of the way early.”
Another area of the squad where competition for places has increased is in the wicketkeeping department.
Former England under 19s batsman Jonny Tattersall has been working hard on his little known skills behind the stumps this winter, and he kept on tour.
It is more likely the 23-year-old will come into contention for that role in limited overs cricket, with Andrew Hodd in line for the gloves in the Championship when Jonny Bairstow is unavailable.
Tattersall was released by Yorkshire in 2015 before earning a second chance with the county towards the end of 2016.
“He certainly did a good job in Potch,” added Ballance. “His keeping has come on a lot.”
Matthew Fisher played a low-profile but significant part as the North won the second North-South Series in Barbados – bouncing back from a 3-0 whitewash last year.
The Yorkshire seamer was omitted from the first game of this year’s series, which the North lost.
But he proved his value to the North coach Paul Collingwood and watching England selectors Angus Fraser and Mick Newell by bowling an important spell in a series-equalling victory at the famous Kensington Oval.
Then Fisher took the wicket that clinched the North’s triumph in the third game at the Three Ws Oval on Sunday.
He has stayed in Barbados and will switch to pink-ball action this week having also been selected for the MCC team to face Essex in the traditional Champion County fixture, which will be played as a day-night match at the Kensington Oval from Tuesday to Friday.